The History of the Radar

The radar is a detection system that relies on the transmission of radio waves to discern the range, velocity, and/or angle of an object. Depending on the application, a radar may be used to detect and monitor aircraft, spacecraft, ships, missiles, weather formations, automobiles, or terrain. While radar technology now serves numerous industries and applications with its functionalities, it was not too long ago that its development was a top military secret.

While the history of the radar can be traced back to the 1930s, the basic idea of the system has its origins in electromagnetic radiation experiments conducted by German physicist Heinrich Hertz in the 1880s. During these experiments, Hertz discovered that radio waves may reflect off of metallic surfaces and will be refracted by a dielectric medium such as is seen with light. These experiments garnered interest in those who sought to create detection devices, though there were no factors at the time that warranted major investment in such technology. In the 1930s, however, long-range military bombers made their debut and countries quickly began searching for a means of detection for defense purposes.

Before the radar itself was invented, many countries experimented with various methods of aircraft detection, and some examples included audio detection for the acoustic noises of aircraft engines and their ignition as well as infrared sensors. As neither the detection of aircraft engines or infrared sensors worked, countries then turned to radio echoes. Independently, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, the Soviet Union, Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan all initiated radar experimentation around the same time and some even had rudimentary forms ready by World War II.

For the United States, initial observations of the radar effect were conducted in 1922 at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. During this experiment, a radio transmitter and receiver were placed at opposite ends of the Potomac River, and undesired fluctuations occurred due to a ship passing through the experiment. As such, research lost sponsoring until 1930 when an aircraft flying through a transmitting antenna caused the fluctuation of the received signal. After subsequent tests, research, and funding, the first radars developed by the U.S. Army were ready by the start of World War II. Despite this, countries such as Germany and Britain had also been developing similar technology using HF and VHF bands, and World War II saw major competition as countries tried to surpass each other’s radar capabilities.

Radar development slowed after the end of the war, though some research continued as the monopulse tracking radar and moving-target indication radar were both completed. During the 1950s though, more improved radar technology began to be developed utilizing more powerful VHF and UHF bands. By the 1960s, radars for detecting ballistic missiles and satellites also debuted, and research and development began to increase once again. As the digital age came to, more modern radars with signal and data processing were created, and more capabilities became possible. Currently, the development of radars still continues as the technology reaches new heights in operational capabilities.

While radar technology was once a top-secret technology utilized for defense applications, it now benefits numerous industries and operations. When you are searching for top quality radar equipment and components, Unlimited Purchasing is your sourcing solution with our unmatched offerings and services. Carrying over 2 billion items that are readily available for purchase, customers can find top quality aircraft parts, NSN components, electronics, and other items that all have been sourced from leading manufacturers that we trust. When you find the items that you wish to purchase, begin with a personalized quote for your comparisons by submitting an Instant RFQ form. With team members readily available for customers 24/7x365, we can fulfill your operational needs quickly and easily. Get started today and see why customers choose Unlimited Purchasing for their operational requirements.


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